Jewish people around the world who seek to learn Hebrew often find it hard to improve their language skills, be it due to a lack of conversation partners, or simply because they are too comfortable speaking their local language, even amongst themselves.
New Olim (immigrants), coming to live in Israel for the first time, also face the same challenges, as they often surround themselves with a community from their country of origin and are therefore easily distracted from speaking Hebrew.
In a country where 80% of the people speak English at a reasonable level, it is hard to convince people to speak to you in Hebrew, as most of them will try to make communication easier for you by addressing you in English. Helpful as it may seem at first, surrendering to this trend is dangerous to your learning process. I personally know a number of people who have been living in Israel for over 10 years, and still find it difficult to have a simple conversation in Hebrew. Luckily, there are many things you can do to avoid that, and speed up your learning process at the same time.
Don’t be embarrassed to make mistakes. If you do (and you will), people will correct you and help you learn. Make it clear to people that Hebrew is the only language you are willing to speak, and if they switch to English, remind them again and again until they get it! You can even be cheeky and tell them you do not understand English. Don’t worry about being rude, remember – you are in Israel! If you meet someone friendly with nothing to do, ask them to teach you 5 new words. If they are into it, they will always teach you a lot more than that. Remember: in a foreign country, anyone can be your teacher, thus interaction is the key to success!
Don’t limit your studies to the textbook, make it part of everything you do. If you like music, listen to Hebrew music. If you like movies, watch Israeli movies, preferably with subtitles so you can follow the storyline. If you’re into biology, go and listen to a lecture at the local university. Even if you only understand a quarter of the content, the language will slowly be absorbed into your brain, thus benefiting your Hebrew learning process. In addition, if you remain attentive, cultural nuances that are missing from the textbook will begin to unfold and gradually improve your communication skills.
I know a man who used to copy signs on the street just to find out what they meant. This way, he learned how to move around the city streets, how to find out about events he was interested in, and where to fix a broken computer. Being creative means getting around. Use your imagination to complete parts of conversation which are not clear to you, and share them with people to find out how close you were to reality. Use body language in addition to your speech to help people understand you better, and never ever get upset if they don’t, just find another way to phrase it until they do.
Finally, break all the rules and find your own way to learn Hebrew! If you’re passionate enough about it, nothing will stand in your way!
LingoLearn is an online Hebrew school which offers beginner level Hebrew courses as well as intermediate and advanced level courses. Learn Hebrew with our experienced teachers and excellent learning materials, in a state of the art virtual classroom!